Sunday, May 13, 2012

Luke's Theology of Worship -- according to Kleinig!

Commenting upon the post-Easter appearances of the Risen Lord in Luke's Gospel, John Kleinig suggests that it is not a mere accident that Luke records that seeing Jesus they did not see (recognize Him) and then not seeing Jesus they saw (recognized Him).  He describes this as part of Luke's theology of worship.  Luke points us to the mystery of the crucified and risen Lord who is revealed no longer with the eyes but where He reveals Himself -- in the means of grace!  Jesus preaches Himself to us from the Scriptures and through the Scriptures and He makes Himself known to us in the breaking of the bread (the Eucharist). The heart of the mystery is seeing Jesus where He intends to be seen.  Obviously faith is required and those without faith see neither Jesus nor the means of grace. Surely this mystery is not incidental to Luke or to the early Church but essential.  Christ will only be known where Christ reveals Himself and Christ reveals Himself  where He has placed His promise and where He sends forth His Spirit (the Word and Sacraments). 

Worship is not where we speak about the mystery but where the mystery is enacted.  Kleinig suggests that in the classroom you can talk about preaching but it is a bit like talking about food without actually eating.  It is in the worship life of the baptized community that the Word is enacted, that is, where Jesus preaches Himself to us.  In the same way, in a systematics class or even a worship class, you may talk about the Lord's Supper but it is in the worship life of the baptized community that the Meal is enacted, that is, where Jesus conveys Himself to us in bread that is His body and the wine that is His blood.  Thus, Kleinig says, in the classroom we stay here on earth but in worship we enter the heavenly domain.  In contrast to those churches the speak of the absent God who must be pointed to in heaven (though the Spirit is here), Lutherans speak of the God who is fully present with His Church through the means of grace, the vehicles of His promise through God works and acts here and now.

It is exciting to hear him speak in this immediate way because we have fallen victim to the real absence understanding of the Lord.  Ask anyone in church on Sunday morning where God is and the hand instinctively points to the sky when it should be pointing to the Word and the Sacraments.  This is not worship in theory but the practice of the presence of God (to borrow Brother Lawrence's catchy title).  We encounter the living Lord exactly where He has promised to be and we meet Him there as the active God who delivers what He has promised to the people of His promise.

You may want to listen for yourself....  It is about an hour but worth every minute.  What is most amazing is that these words are not some academic lecture but the practical words through which Kleinig, as Dean of Chapel, introduces worship as the center of the seminary life together and worship as a fundamental part of the formation of a Pastor.  These words are too good to left to the particular setting in which Kleinig first spoke them and they deserve wider exposure throughout our Lutheran communion.

1 comment:

Fraser Pearce said...

Thanks for the post.

As an ex-student of John Kleinig's, I just thought I'd share that many of his lectures and writings can be found at this site: